MOM, MY HEAD IS ITCHY! It’s the lice cry, and no, I’m not fazed. It’s not personal. It’s business.
In fact, I hear it and I don’t shriek, I don’t sweat, I don’t sob. I turn into a lice FBI agent. Cold, calculated, calm.
It’s simple, really. Take it from a pro: You’re bigger than bugs. And stronger. And smarter. Is it war? Yes. Drama? Not a chance.
It didn’t start out this way. There was a time when lice leveled me. But over the years, we’ve had three visits from the hair-raising creatures and with each appearance, I’ve grown more powerful. Now that I’m a warrior, those bugs better scram before I find them.
Here’s how I got here.
Lice War Round 1: OVERKILL. Nights Lost Sleep: 10. Cost: $500. Duration: Life.
“Hi Mrs. Myers. This is the grade 2 lice check volunteer.”
I didn’t hear the rest. Just stood there, clutching the phone, waiting for the floor to crack open and drop me into hell.
The girl was seven then, with a tangled mass of long brown hair the likes of which caused her to blanch at the sight of a brush and caused hairdressers to charge me double. Back then, I didn’t even know what lice was. All I knew was it was bad, very very bad. So bad that I flew straight past confusion, fear and all rational thought directly into panic.
Next thing I knew, I was being sucked into Google, staring at bug legs while scratching my head raw. I was furious, freaked out, frightened. Some absentee mother’s kid had infected mine and now I had no choice but to step up, and fast.
I yanked the poor child out of school, swore everyone in town to secrecy, begged the Lice Squad for advice. An hour later, I had the shakes, the sweats. This was War. I had to end the Bugs’ Life before they ended ours. But could I?
I scorched all clothes and sheets and pillows and towels and stuffed animals in the dryer then bagged everything in the cold garage. Then, armed with my friend’s lice goggles and nit comb, I was ready. After the kid’s head was swathed in coconut oil under a shower cap, I sat her down and initiated a 3-hour sobfest that had me digging at her scalp for her own good. And I did this twice a day. For 10 days. And not just to her. To me, too. To the husband. To the son. To the toddler. Watch out, bugs, nits and whatever else. Nothing was invading my child, our home, or other kids. Not with me around.
Finally, even though I had subjected us all to lice shampoo and multiple comb-outs, I paid a service $100/head to double-check that I had done my job and done it right.
I loaded the cabinet with lice tools: tea tree oil, gel, elastics, scrunchies and gave the girl strict instructions to wear her hair in a bun. Of course, she didn’t need reminding. She was pretty much scarred. After the graphic images of crawling insects I planted in her head for life, she was afraid to bend down and color with her friends or play Barbies or trade hats, brushes, combs, hair clips, crowns or anything else little girls love to share.
I overkilled the lice but let’s face it, they won the battle.
Lice War Round 2: BUG BATTLE. Nights Lost Sleep: 3. Cost: $80. Duration: 7 days.
When the boy brought lice home, the panic button in my brain got hit again. Even though updated research on lice had caused the school philosophy to change (now, once treated, kids were no longer deemed contagious), I spun into action.
This time, I managed to access some rational thought. After all, I’d lived through lice before. Heart-pounding laundry and vacuuming were necessary, yes, but I wasn’t bagging every item in the house now that I knew nits weren’t living off a head for long. And besides, it was a fairly short-haired head. Even though he did manage to scream it halfway off his neck.
I did my due diligence as the mother of a kid with lice. I called each and every friend he had been in contact with. I warned the rest of the family that we were under a bug invasion. I bought the lice shampoo and comb and treated each household scalp.
I was a careful killer but a freaked-out one nonetheless. Lice had still managed to rattle me.
Lice War Round 3: YOU AGAIN? Nights Lost Sleep: 0. Cost: 0. Duration: 3 days.
“Mom, my head is itchy.”
Smile, sigh. Bring it on, Bug. Prepare to die.
The kid showers and leaves conditioner on hair. With nit comb on crew cut (yeah baby!), I remove nits. Then I find that sucker, hold it up to the light to prove who’s boss and flush it into oblivion with a cheer!
(Rinse and repeat for three days, just in case.)
(Send a quick email to friends whose heads he might have contacted.)
(Wash bedding and vacuum, laughing, victorious.)
(Why bother telling the teens? They haven’t even seen the tween in days.)
Lice FBI agent? You know it.